Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Christmas Materialism (again)

I had lunch with a friend R. today, the co-clerk of our meeting. We got talking about Christmas, since one of the outreach ideas that came out of today's Outreach Committee meeting was to do some newspaper advertising to promote non-material alternatives to the Christmas orgy of buying stuff.

R. told me how her family (a nice, church-going extended family that includes cousins and their children as well as the grandparent generation) doesn't know what Christmas is without the presents. When she suggested this weekend that the adult members stop exchanging gifts, her own mother started to cry, saying she was ashamed that she had raised a daughter who didn't know the real meaning of Christmas.

R's own brother goes into debt some $2G every year to prove to the rest of the family that he can keep up with them. The rest of family is generally very well off. For the adult gift exchange, they have set the recommended spending amount at $250. That's $250 per person -- so a couple, such as K. and her husband, have to cough up $500. And this is for gifts for far wealthier adults. What meaning could this possibly have?

R. and her husband don't, of course, spend all this money, because they don't have it. Just finishing up an M.Div. degree with three children and a husband on a military salary, she can't afford materialism. Does the family not know that her brother suffers under these spending expectations, and that R. can't afford it at all? Do they not know that they are causing suffering insteading of spreading peace and joy?

How many other families are dragged under by the material expectations of Christmas? How many parents dread Christmas because of the financial strain it represents and the desperate choices they have to make?

Can we not help to free our culture from this torture?


At 1:42 AM, Blogger Sean Carter said...

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At 9:47 AM, Blogger david said...


At 2:28 PM, Blogger david said...

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At 4:38 AM, Blogger Anna Dunford said...

a similar discussion was held on the Aotearoa new Zealand YFs email list (called grouphug!) about a month or two ago as someone shared their dilema of wanting to partake in christmas in a meaningful way but one that didn't end up burdening themselves or others with 'things' that they didn't need/want/could afford.

For those of us who are ex-pats living here distance and postage has helped us get away from the materialistic side of christmas and being away from family traditions it has allowed us to create something we are happier with. But others who put their 2 cents worth in on the discussion talked of how it was the things they did at christmas as children that stands out, not the presents - ok so being in the southern hemisphere and that including playing on the beach and barbeques etc gives a lot more scope than finding ways to pass a dull wet dark day midwinter but even so my memories too center round it being the one time we sat and watched a film on tv together as a family, doing the ubiquitous jigsaws and trying to get away from Gran & Grandad's before the Queen's Speech (or getting them home in time for it!).

The greatest gift any of us can give is our time lovingly, some people see the present shopping as part of that and can be why it hurts to suggest to take that away from them, but surely it is more of a challenge to set a low financial limit and see how creative people can be within it if they must have presents - or say home made gifts only (music complilation cd's being acceptable!). Sometimes it is a case of making a stand one year and being prepared to be unpopular and seeing where the conversations go. Who knows who might join you the following year?


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